FOR weeks, he had brooded, his resentment mounting at the affection his parents lavished on their recently orphaned granddaughter.

William Henry Cooke became so paranoid he planned to murder them and didn't care about being hanged.

"That's my intention, so help me God," he told his shocked landlady.

Cooke, 38, had hidden his evil intent well. Only an hour or so earlier, the four had sat down for a meal at an adjacent pub and seemingly left on the best of terms, but Cooke only returned home to equip himself with the blade to slaughter Phoebe Cole and his own parents.

As his father and 11-year-old Phoebe, who lived in Romsey, played together in the kitchen, he silently entered the room and grabbed the helpless girl by the neck and drew the knife from the bottom of her chin towards her throat, inflicting a wound about four inches in length. He then threw her down on the floor, snarling: "I have done for you."

Cooke then seized his father and hurled him to the ground as well but was quickly overpowered after their cries of 'murder' were heard by neighbours who rushed into the house in Chichester and disarmed him.

Cooke, who made no attempt to escape, appeared before magistrates the following day, May 21, 1868, charged with attempted murder of Phoebe, the court first hearing from surgeon George Stone Elliott who detailed her injuries.

"I do not think her life was in danger but if the wound had been deeper at the back, it would have been fatal."

Cooke's contempt for his shoemaker father was soon evident.

After he had concluded his evidence, Cooke cross-examined him in a flippant manner, accusing him of being drunk and a liar in a dispute over a crust of bread and a pipe of tobacco at the pub.

Baker Gad Heath described how he was delivering bread when he heard a shout of 'murder' and entering the kitchen from the front door, saw the floor covered in blood.

"Cooke was wrestling with his father who he had on the ground. I took the knife from him and handed it over to the policeman. I then heard him tell his father :"I have done for the child and now I'll do for you."

Whitesmith John Hearsay, who saw Phoebe running out of the house with her hand on her throat to stem the bleeding, told magistrates: "I went into the house and saw him struggling with his father on the floor. I went towards them and he told me: "If you come near me, I will serve you the same as I served the girl and as I am going to serve the old man."

It had been a far from spur of the moment attack, according to his landlady Amelia Butcher who recalled that a fortnight earlier Cooke had told her of his plan.

When she asked why, he replied: "Because they behave better to her than me."

She chided him: "Cooke, don't say so for your own good and you will be hung for it," but he snapped: "That's my intention, so help me God."

Butcher added he had been drinking for about a month and kept complaining about suffering fits.

Phoebe did not give evidence at that hearing but was well enough to attend the committal proceedings four days later when she described how her uncle had suddenly taken hold of her, saying: "I will take you first. He then cut me on the lower part of my face and threw me down, he then flew at my grandfather."

Sgt Thomsom arrested Cooke who after being charged, confessed: "I did it, it's no use to deny it. What do you think they'll do to me?" The officer replied: "It's not for me to say."

Cooke appeared at Lewes Assizes on July 13. When the indictment that he had assaulted and wounded Phoebe with intent to murder was put to him, he sullenly muttered: "I am guilty."

Mr Justice Martin asked him if he understood the implications of what he had said.

"I understand that," Cooke mumbled. "I intended to murder the child and it's no use saying I did not."

Passing sentence, the judge rebuked him: "This is one of the worst cases that has ever come before me. The only motive that seems to have actuated you to commit this crime is a mean and sordid one that you in one way or other be a loser by the grandfather providing for the child. In order to revenge yourself, you seemed to have gone to the house of your father and made a deliberate attempt to cut the throat of the child and then made an attack on your father and would have done some serious mischief if you had not been prevented and taken into custody.

"I feel bound, therefore, under these circumstances to inflict the full punishment fixed by the law which is that you will be kept in penal servitude for the rest of your natural life."